The Swedish company filed for reconstruction on Dec. 5 following low sales of its latest game, “Overkill’s The Walking Dead.” It announced that its CEO, Bo Andersson Klint, had stepped down that same day. Authorities raided Starbreeze’s Stockholm office two days later as part of an investigation into insider trading. Two people were arrested. Klint was one of them, although he’s since been cleared of suspicion. The investigation is now reportedly looking into Carnegie Investment Bank, which allegedly forced Klint to sell his shares in the company.
While the failure of “Overkill’s The Walking Dead” had a lot to do with Starbreeze’s current predicament, large investments into virtual reality, expensive technology, and other studios that never paid off contributed as well, according to Eurogamer. Over a dozen current and former Starbreeze employees who spoke to the publication anonymously said the writing had been on the wall for some time.
In May 2015, Starbreeze reportedly invested $8 million into publishing a co-operative shooter called “Raid: World War 2.” Many staff members considered it a bad investment and wondered why Starbreeze was publishing an obvious competitor to its own hugely successful co-op title “Payday 2.” The game apparently flopped so hard, Starbreeze was forced to raise $30 million in a share sale to keep the company afloat until “Overkill’s The Walking Dead” released.
That same month, Starbreeze announced its purchase of the Valhalla game engine for around 73 million SEK (over $8 million USD). Sources told Eurogamer the engine was nearly unusable.
“Valhalla was a piece of shit,” one source said.
“Overkill’s The Walking Dead” suffered a number of delays due to its development issues. Finally, Starbreeze announced it was switching to Unreal Engine in August 2017. Two years of work was essentially wasted.
Then there was Starbreeze’s foray into virtual reality. It bought VR engineering firm InfinitEye for $2 USD million in 2015 and created its own virtual reality company called StarVR. It then secured $9 million in funding from Acer to finance a high-end VR headset. But, the device never launched and Acer is now reportedly trying to sell or shutdown the company.
Starbreeze made big investments in a production company called Nozon and an Indian outsourcing company called Dhruva. It also reportedly invested $10 million into creating VR experiences for a theme park in Dubai. Then, it opened more offices in multiple locations around the globe, including Los Angeles and Paris.
Following its reconstruction in December, Starbreeze said it’s now focusing on its “core business” of internal game development and publishing. An administrator told Eurogamer the company’s debt is around 400 million SEK (over $44 million USD).